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Next Stop

The nearly forgotten Westham Station awaits a final destination.



The train doesn't stop here anymore. It never did — at least not where the Westham railway station stands today.

It's been 50 years since the station, built in 1911, received its last passengers and freight. That was at its original location, which straddled the James River and Kanawha Canal below the Huguenot Bridge.

In 1963 the station was moved to its current site, near the intersection of Robin Hood and Hermitage roads, adjacent to a city of Richmond softball field and across from The Diamond. Most recently, the frame structure served as a city tourist information center. In 2002 that function was re-established downtown at the convention center.

It's been said that there are no second acts in American life, but having disproved that adage, does the Westham Station have yet another act ahead?

A number of Richmonders hope so.

"With all the current talk about redeveloping the Boulevard, this building is overlooked," says Selden Richardson, a Richmond historian and author concerned about the fate of the station.

Despite its deteriorating condition, the 800-square-foot structure possesses considerable architectural charm with such arts and crafts traces as a roof that tilts slightly upward at the corners.

"It's been in limbo," says Leslie Naranjo, director of preservation for the Historic Richmond Foundation, a nonprofit that keeps an eye on Richmond's antique, and often threatened, stock of buildings. "When we met with Virginia Department of Historic Resources officials recently it was one of a number of sites — from the proposed ballpark to the canal — that we discussed."

As a building that served a transportation need that was moved, Naranjo stresses, it isn't eligible for listing on the historic register.

The depot became surplus city property 12 years ago.

"Benign neglect is the opposite of stewardship," says Richardson, who authored "Built by Blacks: African American Architecture and Neighborhoods in Richmond." "Stupidity on the part of the city I can stand, but when I'm paying for part of it, it grates my soul."

He says it isn't the first time a historic, city-owned building has slipped into disrepair. He cites the 1895 First Battalion Virginia Volunteer Armory in Jackson Ward as being allowed to fall into a near ruinous state before being rehabilitated. (Plans call for it to be incorporated as part of a new Black History Museum and Cultural Center.)

"We'd like to see someone acquire the building," Historic Richmond's Naranjo says, "and have had preliminary discussions with a party interested in acquiring the building and moving it."

Help may be on the way.

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